‘A World of Curiosities’ by Louise Penny is a brilliant and gripping mystery with many twists

Louise Penny’s latest entry in her Chief Inspector Gamache series is brilliant and addictive. While it begins slowly as Penny is creating the backstory, that narrative becomes all-important later in the novel when the action and the connections are so fast and furious that it’s almost impossible to put the book down. We feel compelled to keep reading to see what clues will be uncovered next, who will die or be in danger, and what connection to the past an item or person has that we are just learning about.

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‘A Ghost of Caribou’ by Alice Henderson is the third suspense novel about wildlife and our world

What do you get when you combine a wildlife researcher’s knowledge with a gripping plot and an admirable and likable protagonist? You get the books in this new series by Alice Henderson, the latest of which is “A Ghost of Caribou.” In each title, she cleverly uses the group noun for the animal that the main character, Alex Carter, is researching. In the first two books in the series, we read about “A Solitude of Wolverines” and “A Blizzard of Polar Bears” and now we learn about caribou in this novel. Personally, in addition to the fine writing and the characters I have come to care about, I love learning about the wildlife. Caribou? I had no idea that we had them in the US until I read this thrilling novel.

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Two pop-up books for children about animals and dinosaurs would make great holiday gifts

Almost all kids love pop-up books, and pop-up books about animals are sure to be a hit. “Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Creatures” by Arnaud Roi and illustrated by Charlotte Molas and “The Pop-up Guide: Animals” by Maud Poulain and Peggy Nille are two picture books that entranced my six-year-old grandson, and he did think that his two-year-old sister would love the one about animals.

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For young mystery lovers: a picture book and beginning readers series for using clues to solve puzzles

When I was teaching, I loved using picture books as teaching materials. The students were so entertained by the stories that they didn’t realize I was sneaking in important concepts! With these mysteries for young readers, teachers can show students how to pay attention to details and how to use organized problem-solving methods to get answers to questions and to solve mysteries. And kids will have lots of fun while learning about these methods – I guarantee it!

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‘Furysong’ by Rosaria Munda is the conclusion of a brilliant fantasy trilogy

With her latest novel, “Furysong,” the last fantasy in the trilogy that began with “Fireborne” and continued with “Flamefall,” author Rosaria Munda has claimed her place as a first class writer who can plan, plot, and execute a series of books wherein each approaches 500 pages—not one page of which feels unnecessary. Yes, the novels are lengthy, but they are chockfull of fascinating characters with whom we empathize, nonstop action, unexpected twists, heartbreaking turns, and dragons who bond to their specific humans. Be forewarned that if you start with the first one, you will probably want to read all three books in a row, and this situation might affect your performance at work or school.

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National Geographic Kids has some engaging and informative 2022 books kids will love

National Geographic Kids creates the kind of nonfiction books that kids of all ages (and adults, too) love to read. They are filled with facts, photographs, maps, charts, and lists, in addition to the nonfiction text features that elementary school students learn about — like table of contents, indexes, glossaries, and pages with more information. In short, they are the perfect vehicle for teaching about nonfiction reading because kids love the content. And as every teacher knows, when the content is engaging and interesting to the reader, kids are able to read higher level material. As an aside, when my six-year-old grandson saw these books, his eyes lit up. “I’m taking these home,” he declared. Music to my ears. From dinosaurs to animals and space, these sturdy, beautifully edited books will have you covered.

5,000 Awesome Facts (About Animals!)

“5,000 Awesome Facts (About Animals!)” is organized in an unusual manner. Each double page spread is titled with a number and the subject matter. For example, one such spread is called “35 Witty Facts about Animal Intelligence” and features a big picture of an African gray parrot. Fact number 10 states that “in a study, African gray parrots showed selflessness—one parrot helped another get treats, even if it meant it would get less.” There are facts about dolphins, a beluga whale who could mimic human speech, fish, elephants, and even chickens. Some of the clever groupings include “100 Eye-popping Facts about Animal Vision,” “50 Buzzworthy Facts about Bees, Wasps, and Hornets” and “50 Facts about Animals that Can Take the Heat.” This is a book that will be picked up over and over again, as it’s not a book that will be read straight through. I could envision a teacher using this every morning to share a few fascinating facts with students as an engaging way to start the day.

Dinosaur Atlas

“Dinosaur Atlas: When They Roamed, How They Lived, and Where We Find Their Fossils” is true to the title and includes a map on many double page spreads. In the table of contents we see that the book is organized perfectly. It starts with “Meet the Dinosaurs” and then has “Prehistoric Planet” which includes sections about the three periods, Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous. Then there is the section “Finding Fossils,” which takes readers to different continents from North and South America to all the other continents except Antarctica. Then, of course, no book about dinosaurs would be complete without information about what happened to the dinosaurs, so three theories are presented: The Asteroid, Volcanoes, and Slow Climate Change. We learn about dino descendants and prehistoric birds. There is a very detailed dino dictionary at the end, listing all the dinosaurs in alphabetical order with pronunciation, meaning, geologic time, where found, length, and group. And like all the information in these books, the careful use of color makes reading and understanding the information simple.

Can’t Get Enough Space Stuff

“Can’t Get Enough Space Stuff” states on the cover that it includes “fun facts, awesome info, cool games, silly jokes, and more!” This soft-covered book includes double page spreads that are labeled “From the Field,” which explain different elements of space like black holes, water on Mars, Europa, a planet with two suns, and more. There are pages with space sillies, fun and games, quizzes, and far-out facts. This book is filled with corny jokes like “Why couldn’t the astronaut focus on his book?” Of course — “he kept spacing out.” Some of the information is interesting, like “Astronaut John Young sneaked a corned beef sandwich onto the Gemini 3 mission in 1965.” There are pages labeled “Try it out” with ideas for activities like creating a galaxy mobile. There isn’t a chronology, and it isn’t organized by sections, so kids will enjoy looking randomly at the different pages and activities. It’s another book that they won’t tire of because of the plethora of information it contains.

Please note: This review is based on the final books provided by National Geographic Kids, the publisher, for review purposes.

‘Spy School: Project X’ by Stuart Gibbs: Not just action and humor, also a beautiful depiction of disinformation

Spy School: Project X by Stuart Gibbs

“Spy School: Project X” might just be my favorite novel in the “Spy School” series by acclaimed children’s author Stuart Gibbs. It has all of the action and humor that the previous books in the series do, but in this one, Gibbs centers the plot on a disinformation campaign designed to put a target on our main character, Ben Ripley, who attends the CIA Academy of Espionage for school-aged potential agents.

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‘An Island Wedding’ by Jenny Colgan a delightful summer romp

An Island Wedding by Jenny Colgan

The fictional Scottish island of Mure is the setting for a series of novels by Jenny Colgan, and so delightful are her descriptions of the remote setting and the colorful inhabitants that we long to visit there and see the whales in the ocean, feel the cold breezes, and marvel at the colorful buildings that line the street along the coast. In “An Island Wedding,” we revisit this magical place, based on the real islands of Orkney and Shetland, and reacquaint ourselves with many of the inhabitants who have been featured in past novels.

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‘Dead Against Her’ by Melinda Leigh is a gripping mystery novel

Dead Against her by Melinda Leigh

The fifth novel in the Bree Taggert series by Melinda Leigh, “Dead Against Her,” is just as riveting and touching as the first ones. They feature Bree Taggert, a tough female sheriff in a rural upstate New York community who was born in the county to an abusive father. She became a detective, and, when her sister was murdered, returned to her roots to raise her sister’s children with the help of her now retired former partner.

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‘A Rip Through Time’ by Kelley Armstrong is a time travel mystery in Victorian Scotland

A Rip Through Time by Kelley Armstrong

After ending her fabulous “Rockton” series, prolific author Kelley Armstrong presents us with “A Rip Through Time,” a mystery boasting a different twist. Instead of exploring a unique location, we follow a modern police detective who is flung back in time to the Victorian Era, into the body of a housemaid in Edinburgh, Scotland. When Vancouver detective Mallory Atkinson is out jogging in Edinburgh while taking a break from visiting her dying grandmother, she is brutally attacked. She wakes up days later; but in what seems like a never-ending nightmare, she realizes that she is in the body of a maid and that she has been somehow transported back 150 years in time.

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‘Charlie Thorne and the Curse of Cleopatra’ by Stuart Gibbs is the next foray into the brilliant and exciting world of a young genius

Charlie Thorne and the Curse of Cleopatra
by Stuart Gibbs

“Charlie Thorne and the Curse of Cleopatra” by Stuart Gibbs is exactly the kind of middle grade fiction that teachers adore. And there are so many reasons to adore this clever and well-written adventure. The main character, Charlie, is a wonderful main character. She’s smart, adventurous, has high morals, admits her physical failings, and has a bit of an attitude. In short, she’s like many of the kids who will enjoy this series.

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‘Holy Chow’ by David Rosenfelt is the latest tail-wagging murder mystery with the affable Andy Carpenter

Holy Chow by David Rosenfelt

Not everyone in the fictional world of wanna-be-retired attorney Andy Carpenter loves him. But IRL (in real life), author David Rosenfelt’s fans adore the irascible, humorous, and self-deprecating lawyer whose dialogue literally makes us LOL (laugh out loud). “Holy Chow” is the latest in a long series of Rosenfelt novels about Andy Carpenter and his motley crew of investigators. As the series has continued, the cast of supporting characters has grown. In addition to Andy’s wife Laurie, who acts as his investigator, there is retired cop Corey Douglas and his K-9 Simon Garfunkel. They, in fact, star in their own kick-off series titled “K Team,” the “K” referencing the amazing Simon, as he is known for short.

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